30 June 2005
South Africa has taken over the presidency of the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which fights money laundering across the world.
FATF is an inter-governmental body consisting of 33 member states whose purpose is to develop and promote national and international policies and standards to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
It was established by the G8 in 1989 in response to mounting concern over money laundering and in recognition of the threat posed to banking systems and financial institutions worldwide. South Africa is the only member from Africa.
The presidency is a one-year term, rotated between members of the task force. Former education minister Professor Kader Asmal was appointed to the position by the Cabinet.
Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday, Asmal said South Africa focused on money laundering because it was a profit centre and the tools used by money launderers were familiar.
“The challenge posed by money laundering to nations such as South Africa is obvious,” Asmal said. “It affects government’s ability to deliver on its development objectives. Taxes are not paid to the government from illegal gains.
“Monies that could be put to use in worthy socioeconomic causes such as education, healthcare and housing are withheld from our fiscus. There are also social costs of money laundering. Money laundering affects the fabric of our society and interferes with good governance,” Asmal said.
He said South Africa would seek to introduce initiatives into FATF work that were important to developing nations.
He also explained that one such area was the prevention of trafficking of women and children, a phenomenon that was increasing in Asia and East Europe.
“Our country has passed its own anti-terrorist legislation which is now in force. Ongoing efforts within FATF to counter the financing of terrorism will receive continued attention from South Africa,” he said.
According to Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, South Africa has had in the region of 24 000 reported cases of suspicious transactions in the last two years. Prosecutions should take place soon.